Review of Silent Hill: Downpour on the Xbox

A MODERN day house of horrors, the fog-shrouded town of Silent Hill has played host to many memorable games, as well as its fair share of supernatural stinkers. Fortunately, Silent Hill: Downpour is another malevolent masterpiece – filled with all manner of twisted monstrosities – and represents a welcome return to form for the series.

This is odd, because it’s a game that’s blighted by a clunky combat system, some ridiculous puzzles, and chase sequences that rely on blind luck to evade your ghostly pursuers. Thankfully, all this isn’t enough to detract from a story that’s populated by some intriguing characters, including convicted murderer, Murphy Pendleton.

Taking on the role of Murphy, the game immediately asks you to perform a villainous act, which, without giving anything away, is a genuinely disturbing experience. It certainly doesn’t endear you to the guy, that’s for sure, but as more of his back-story is revealed, you’ll find yourself sympathizing with the choices he’s had to make in his life.

During a transfer to another prison, Murphy’s bus crashes on the outskirts of Silent Hill, enabling him to escape and seek sanctuary in the abandoned resort. From there on in, the action never stops, as our escaped convict fights his way through the nightmare town, as well as the inter-dimensional Otherworld that’s populated by even more ghastly apparitions and balls of eviscerating red light.

With monsters seemingly lurking behind every corner, it’s a game that’s brimming over with old school frights, but the terrible combat system is a huge letdown. With guns and ammo in short supply, you’re forced to use crowbars and pickaxes to defend yourself, but these invariably break after just a few blows. Even worse, the lack of a targetting system means you’ll often be swinging your makeshift weapon at thin air rather than the beastie that’s stood in front of you.

Despite this criticism, Silent Hill: Downpour still delivers enough thrills to keep the player engaged. It’s stuffed with optional side-quests, some incredibly atmospheric locations and a collection of freakish monsters. The story is a lot smarter than we’ve come to expect from the series and it’ll often have you on the edge of your seat, which is exactly what a survival horror game is supposed to do.